A seizure is defined as changes in the brain’s electrical activity.

They occur due to sudden abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have recurring seizures.

The seizures occur due to abnormal electrical signals produced by the neurons. These seizures can last for seconds to minutes. If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, it is called status epilepticus, a medical emergency. One seizure does not signify epilepsy. Epilepsy is defined as having two or more unprovoked seizures.

The incidence of epilepsy each year in the U.S. is estimated at 150,000 or 48 for every 100,000 people.

The prevalence of people with epilepsy ranges from 1.3 million to 2.8 million.

According to the World Health Organization, epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disorder of the brain that affects people of all ages. Approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally. Nearly 80% of the people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries. People with epilepsy respond to treatment approximately 70% of the time. About three fourths of people with epilepsy living in low- and middle- income countries do not get the treatment they need. In many parts of the world, people with epilepsy and their families suffer from stigma and discrimination.

There are many types of seizures. Generalized seizures are a result of abnormal activity on both sides of the brain. Focal seizures or partial seizures occur in a small part of the brain. During a seizure, you may be alert or lose consciousness. Sometimes you may or may not remember what happened during the seizure. Also there are instances where you may not even realize you had a seizure. Other symptoms include: convulsions, muscle rigidity, muscle stiffness, jerking movements, or loss of muscle tone. In addition, some patients may bite their tongue or lose bowel/bladder functions. Some patients report unusual sensations affecting their vision (aura), hearing, smell taste, or touch. Seizures can also affect awareness, memories, and emotions.

An EEG or electroencephalogram is a test which can aid in locating the focus of the epileptic seizure. An electroencephalogram can assist in showing brain activity suggestive of an increased risk of seizures. In the diagnosis of epilepsy, electroencephalography may help distinguish the type of seizure or syndrome present.

Other tests which will aid your treating doctor are diagnostic imaging such as CT scan and MRI. MRI is more beneficial unless bleeding is present which would make a CT scan a more preferable choice.

The most common treatment of epilepsy are anticonvulsant medications. Patients may take this medication for the rest of their lives. The choice of anticonvulsant is based on seizure type, epilepsy syndrome, other medications used, other health problems, and the person’s age and lifestyle

There are a number of medications available. The least expensive anticonvulsant is phenobarbital. Other medications used in the treatment of epilepsy include: Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol) and valproate (Depakote, Valpro).

There is help out there. If you suspect you may have had a seizure please consult your medical doctor or a neurologist who specializes in treatment of seizure disorders.

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